Archive for May, 2010

Many articles were published in Indian press, regarding Facebook ban. One such article which was published in Hindustan Times, Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle mentions my words regarding the facebook-ban-dilemma. The reporter or the source has mistakenly mentioned myself as Ali Shah (I dont mind that name either :P, in reverence to the Bullah Baadshah). The article is cross-posted below.

Some things need to be kept in mind regarding the facebook/internet blockade, every blogger/activist/journalist and citizen of Pakistan who is voicing out to get the ban lifted, is not in favour of the degrading campaign carried out by some ignorants. We, like every Muslim brother and sister, feel despised by the slanderous campaign carried out some “average” cartoonist, who made it to the headlines worldwide. Freedom of Speech and hate-speech collide at times, and one needs to understand the difference between the two before throwing tanturms and hurting feelings of billions of human beings. One cannot cry “bomb” in a hospital, disrupt peace and then say its my freedom of speech, because everything has a limit in this temporal abode. One cannot start a campaign saying “Lets draw XYZ’s Mom” and then link to Freedom of Speech, because someone’s feeling will get hurt – And here, Prophet (p) is held in reverence by 1/5th of humanity, who consider him (p) more closer to themselves than their parents.

Facebook should have dealt with the matter more effeciently, and instead of judging “why” feelings of billions were getting hurt, it should have paid heed to the millions of abuse-reports it was getting. I have already written a blog-post regarding this (facebook or bias-book). However, we must also understand that facebook was not the campaign itself, banning the entire facebook was not wise, as it gave the “average” cartoonist and slanderous campaign the hype it yearned for, and started for – we must have instead sent an official complaint to Facebook HQ’s or used our foreign diplomats to pressurize facebook to take the page down, and had it not paid heed, we should have blocked the blasphemous groups/pages instead of banning the entire domain.

Why? Because Facebook has hundreds of pro-Islam pages (one such page, run by friend Abbasi has over 270,000 members) propagating the real message of Islam to the West, communicating with world in this global village, hundreds of charities, social welfare organizations, online blood donation groups, civil and human rights activists group and women/child-abuse initiatives use facebook to propagate their message and very effeciently. My organization (Pakistan Youth Alliance) has raised over 7,500,000 PKR using facebook and helped IDP’s, orphans, disabled, needy and juveniles. (read link mentioning PYA’s social work using facebook, see this interview with Dawn News and hear Naveen Naqvi mentioning how we used facebook to help IDP’s, also see this link to see MSN News’s report about how we used facebook to carry out a campaign against the dictator Musharraf, also read this report in Newsline Magazine, under the aegis of “The Facebook Revolution” mentioning us regarding facebook and activism).

So the gist of what I am trying to say is – A knife can be used to cut apples and cut throats, TV can be used to disberse information/education or destroy a childs mind, facebook/youtube/twitter/Flickr/Yahoo/Gmail/Hotmail and others can be used to start blasmphemous campaigns and at the same time, can be utilized for good causes. Are knives banned because someone cut a throat with it? Is TV banned because of one or two “bad” programs ? Why facebook, youtube, flickr and twitter were banned  then? Does banning help stopping the campaign or propagates it more? Is closing your eyes from an approaching danger a solution or digs in more holes? The campaign initially started with facebook and now is everywhere on the www, the minds behind the campaign exactly wanted that. Hiding from reality doesnt change reality – things are not simply black and white. There are issues to discuss and realities to be matched with eloquence, so there should be a discussion between opposing parties and eyes must not be closed.

This explanation was necesarry before re-posting the articles published in Indian press and elsewhere (DW Germany, BBC World, Radio FM 99) regarding my stance.

Hindustan Times, Deccan Chronicile and Indian Express:

Raza Rumi cross-posted a message by  Ali, who wrote: “They have banned the entire Facebook domain in Pakistan (and) barred Blackberry services for one ignorant rant? They have burnt the entire village for one bad guy and we must stand up to it”.


Hindustan Times : Pakistan’s e-space abuzz after Facebook, Twitter ban

Deccan Chronicile: After Facebook and Youtube, Pakistan blocks Twitter, Blackberry

Indian Express: Pakistan Seethes on Twitter, Blackberry Ban.

DW Germany:

Calls for free speech

But there were also other opinions. Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi,  from Islamabad, started a Facebook group against the ban, called “Protect Online Speech in Pakistan”.

“Facebook is used by many Pakistanis for good causes, too. There are many pro-Islam pages on Facebook, with members in millions. A friend of mine is running such a page, and he is spreading a positive message about Islam towards the world. Similarly, I myself and my friends have done a lot of good work on Facebook, helping people, helping humanity. So you cannot burn the entire village for one bad guy!”

Article: DW Germany: Reaction to Pakistan’s Facebook ban

– Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

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Older post, crossposting here.

I have no experience of dealing with dictators or even their sons. Our generation however witnessed the brutality of former dictator Zia ul Haq against media, civil society, poets, writers and political workers. It has been two decades since former dictator burned in skies and things have changed drastically. Media and information technology has not only made information easily available but also developed a culture of civilized debate. The civil society has reorganized itself and has shown that it can stand firm against dictators during lawyer’s movement.

What has not changed is the mind set of dictator’s sons and their cronies. We are witnessing the retired generals and brigadiers coming to electronic media with revelations and defending their unconstitutional acts. Similarly, the ‘general’s sons’ turned politicians are not behind retired officers. They leave no opportunity to arrogantly defend their much hated fathers terming them martyrs and holy warriors. In a similar effort Ijaz ul Haq, a former parliamentarian and son of a former dictator Zia ul Haq tried to proved ZA Bhutto an executed leader and his own father a holy warrior and ‘Shaheed in an article published in ‘Daily News”.

I sent a letter to Editor of ‘The News” expressing my views, it was published today as under; “This is with reference to Muhammad Ijaz ul Haq’s article “A conspiracy against my father” (Sept 8). General Zia’s son seems to live in the past, otherwise he would not have distorted facts. In a country which has millions of internet users information is just a click away. It is quite hypocritical of him to say that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was an ‘executed leader’. I wish Mr Haq had courage to realise and acknowledge that the same execution made his father one of the most hated persons of this country. The truth is that General Zia gave this country its Kalashnikov culture and the blood-thirsty Taliban.

The response I received from Mr. Ijaz ul Haq was shocking as one cannot expect such language being used by a man who has been a Member of Parliament for over a decade. It states as under; ” For you he should be hanged twice over for killing prof. Nazir Shaheed and Khawaja Rafiq and people like you are shitting all over and look what NRO prof are doing to our country. Sick people like you are all over. – Ijaz ul Haq. Sent via BlackBerry from Mobilink” mi****@mobilink.blackberry.com

To what level the general’s arrogant sons turned ‘test tube leaders’ can fall is not difficult to judge from his response and language used. Mr. Ijaz ul Haq seems unable to come out of dictator’s mindset and show a little civilized behavior towards critics of his father’s hypocritical dark regime. This is undeniable that the mess we are in as a society is gift of Zia ul Haq. It is also a fact that no other person in Pakistan is hated as much Mr. Ijaz ul Haq’s father. But the former parliamentarian while living in denial is not only to deny facts but feel comfortable to use curses against critics of his traitor father who worked and died as an imperial agent. He not only destroyed the secular and tolerant culture of our society but bread extremism from which Mr. Ijaz ul Haq is also suffering today.

Once an American puppet that killed brutality every sane voice is being portrayed as a ‘holly warrior’ by an obedient son. The business empires built by sons of holy warrior are still unaccounted for and sources never declared. Even if his death was staged by CIA and Mosad as claimed by Ijaz ul Haq, it always happened to all imperial puppets around the world. Mard e Momen Junir has to get out of disillusion and recognize what people think about his hypocrite father. He also needs learns that how much society has transformed as such making speech more free than the standards set by his brutal father. He needs to spend some time with civilized people to learn how to take criticism and respond in a civilized manner. But then if he does so – he won’t be a true son of a hated dictator. It is again for us to realize and accept – the way the sons and cronies of dictators are!

– Ahmed Nadeem Gehla

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One started praying for no ‘Pakistan link’ the moment the news of smoke discharging from an SUV parked at Times Square broke in the media. But it turned out later that it was done by a US national of Pakistani-origin. We were lucky that Faisal Shahzad could not assemble the bomb properly. One fails to understand how a westernised youth found the right connections and logistics to travel to the war-struck strongholds of the Taliban and other splinter terrorist organisations. Sadly, our omnipresent intelligence agencies couldn’t trace these links. How could Faisal Shahzad, during his brief visit to Pakistan, find out the proper links and get all the training without any difficulty?

How many Faisal Shahzads are still in the making? How many Pakistanis will further defame their religion and country in pursuit of their murderous goals?

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi


source: The News

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It was a radio show, and some criticial points were missed while extracting this print report from my talk, however, here it is:

Pakistani authorities extended their ban on the popular social networking site Facebook on Thursday to other internet sites that showed “blasphemous caricatures”, as the foreign ministry spokesman put it.

Access to YouTube and Wikipedia was also restricted, and BlackBerry services were suspended throughout the country. A court in Lahore had ruled on Wednesday that Facebook should be blocked in Pakistan for failing to remove a page that invited entries to a competition to draw pictures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Many students support ban

Facebook is very popular in Pakistan, with between two and three million users. But outside Hamdard University in Islamabad on Thursday, many students supported the ban. Many Muslims believe that any pictorial representation of the Prophet is sacrilegious. One female student said it’s normal that people are not tolerant when it comes to religious matters, “especially on our prophet. So whatever the government has done, I must say: Thumbs up!”

Another student adds: “It’s ok that they closed it. But Pakistan should open its own community website, which all the Pakistanis can use.”

Calls for free speech

But there were also other opinions. Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, an engineer from Islamabad, started a Facebook group against the ban, called “Protect Online Speech in Pakistan”.

“Facebook is used by many Pakistanis for good causes, too. There are many pro-Islam pages on Facebook, with members in millions. A friend of mine is running such a page, and he is spreading a positive message about Islam towards the world. Similarly, I myself and my friends have done a lot of good work on Facebook, helping people, helping humanity. So you cannot burn the entire village for one bad guy!” 

Facebook had been targeted because a user had launched a page supporting the “Draw Mohammed Day” on May 20. The idea for such a day was originally floated by a Seattle cartoonist who was upset about threats by a Muslim group to her colleagues, the makers of the animated sitcom “South Park” in the US.

Protests draw more attention

Kalsoom Lakhani, a Pakistani blogger based in Washington DC, thought continuing a spiral of protests and counter-protests was counterproductive.”The irony of it all is that there is so much hatred out there in the blogosphere, on Facebook, in the cyberworld. But I think the more anger the ‘Draw Mohammed Day’ created, the more outrage it sparked, the more publicity it got as a result. So this is kind of a self-enforcing phenonemon.”

Equal treatment demanded

Most Pakistani users seemed to agree that Facebook should have dealt with the matter in a different way. Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi said, “Facebook’s policy on abuse is very biased, I feel. For example, I protested against General Musharraf during his emergency rule, when he banned the media and all that. I created a page. It had around 10,000 members, and it was banned. I e-mailed Facebook, and they said that because your page is spreading hatred and being abusive, we are removing it. I said: OK! But this time, of course millions of Muslims around the world were reporting this page, but Facebook was not taking it down!”

Facebook, which is based in Palo Alto, California, has expressed disappointment about being banned in Pakistan “without warning”, but stood by its policies in a statement to AFP news agency.

 Source: DW, Germany  (Deutcshe Welle)     


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On Wednesday 19th May 2010, the Lahore High Court, famous for acting as a “moral brigade” rather than judiciary, once again passed a strange order to ban Facebook across Pakistan on a petition of Muslim Lawyers Forum. The demand for blocking of the social media site came after it refused to remove certain pages displaying Prophet Muhammad’s cartoons.

This order was passed against the request of the government and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority that controversial pages of Facebook were already being blocked and there was no reason to block entire social media website which has over 2 million Pakistani users.

Few months back Lahore High Court took suo-moto notice of album of a popular female singer and declared her songs to be ‘vulgar’. This was followed by Chief Justice Lahore High Court’s remarks that Hindus were financing the terrorism in Pakistan which attracted protests from Hindu minority of Pakistan. This mixing of religion in to matters of state is opposite to the judgment of the Bangladesh’s Supreme Court which imposed ban on religious parties to take part in politics.

The court order to ban entire social media site is not only unreasonable but amounts to restrict the freedom of expression of which judiciary is a guardian. It also reflects the mindset and strong inclination of present superior judiciary towards right wing religious fundamentalist groups which can easily get ‘desired justice’.

JI, a religious fanatic group which is strong supporter of present judiciary and was successful to get its members recruited in superior judiciary after restoration of Chief Justice is organizing the protests to ban all ‘Western Infidel’ websites including Facebook,Google, YouTube and Twitter etc. The wish for a ‘stone age’ as termed by Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, a youth leader. The Islamic Lawyer forum which filed the petition to block Facebook itself is a lawyers wing of JI fanatics.

The most interesting fall out of the court order is the strong reaction of Pakistani urban middle class youth, which widely uses Facebook for social interaction. The same youth was the most active supporter of movement for restoration of present judiciary. They are demanding from the government to immediately lift the blockage of Facebook website.

One of the protesters and an active blogger/civil society activist Dr. Awab Alvi writes ; “As members of civil society and professionals who depend on social media networks for our daily communications, we demand the immediate restoration of Facebook and an end to Internet censorship by the Government of Pakistan”.

But if government does lifts the ban on this demands, it will be disobeying the court orders.

Should not it be a protest against judiciary instead which has allied itself with religious fanatics and is acting as ‘Moral Brigade’ rather than an institution to dispense justice?

Historically religious groups in Pakistan have been providing support to military dictators and been associated with intelligence agencies to bring down the elected governments. After removal of Pervez Musharaf, the military establishment decided not to interfere directly in political issues. Certain sections of establishment and religious groups which are eager to remove present regime have associated themselves with judiciary.

Many critics blame that Lawyers movement which was initiated by lawyers and civil society was later hijacked by PMLN, PTI and JI and judiciary is under strong influence of right wing fundamentalist groups. The recent recruitments in superior judiciary are also being criticized as being from a certain ‘mind set’ and comprise of judges from certain political and religious parties.

As the conflict between PPP government and Judiciary is becoming intense, the judiciary is gathering the support of religious groups. Recently Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the former head of JI announced to get SC judgments implemented through ‘street power’. Yeah, now judiciary needs religious goons to get its orders implemented – though no suo-moto by good Chief Justice asking Mr. Qazi that who appointed him the ‘bailiff’ of SC!

In order to retain the support of religious fundamentalist groups, judiciary would have to deliver more judgments like ban on Facebook as per fanatics demands. This seems to be just the beaning as the demands of religious fanatics would not anything less than turning Pakistani society in to Taliban style Emirates.

As Supreme Court declared in its recent judgment to be custodian of imaginary ‘basic features’ of constitution of Pakistan and judging the righteousness of elected representatives, closer cooperation between fundamentalist and judiciary is inevitable. The top leaders of lawyer’s movement like Ali Ahmad Kurd are openly confessing that this is not the judiciary for what we struggled.

But where do the Urban middle class youth, which worked tirelessly for restoration of judiciary fits in this whole set up? Would they be able to digest the fanatic’s demands? They do not want to loose the freedom of expression and reject the ban on Facebook. They do not want court of Qazi to ban their favorite singer but they are demanding from government to lift the blockage of social media site.

Protesting against government while the ban is ordered by a ‘holly lordship’ of Lahore High Court is sign of their confusion.

In fact they are still unable to accept the fact that Lawyers movement was hijacked by right wing fundamentalist groups and present judiciary is composed of and an ally of religious fanatics. The fact they should have been realized when Supreme Court slept over the so called ‘Missing Persons’ issue, 12th May probe and countless other slogans raised during lawyers movements.

The only hope which still keeps them away from straight away protesting against ‘moral policing’ of judiciary and its partial judgments and instead make the government a scapegoat is that one day judiciary will boot “evil” Zardari out from his office. But what they are unable to understand is that it wont be possible unless a strong alliance of religious fanatics is there to support judiciary. As has been a custom when we underwent the military dictatorship – judicial dictatorship wont work differently.

What will be the cost of that alliance doesn’t need Einstein to figure out – and that is civil society itself. More influence of religious fanatics will hurt these urban middle class youth, who are not willing to compromise on their liberties but confused and unable to face the reality.

Can the civil society and urban middle class youth be part of the Mullah-Judiciary alliance against PPP government? They must ask themselves. It is up to them to decide whether they want an other repeat of notorious Ziaist era when general associated religious fanatics in power game. The Mullah-Judiciary alliance is going to be much more disastrous for civil society than what we have experienced in past.

Ahmad Nadeem Gehla

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Yes, we all are hearing about the “Draw a Muhammad Day” campaign and how muslim-masses have reacted to the blasphemous campaign. Though, facebook has to be protested against, but we should not lose our marbles, because the protest has to be aimed at a possible bias in facebook’s reporting abusive or hateful material.

I have interacted with facebook staff quite a number of times concerning this, and everytime they did respond back (as they should). Once, this hatepage surfaced against me, calling to hang me and labelling me as traitor, for voicing out army’s intervention in civilian matters. View Ali Abbas Zaidi The Traitor blogpost here to read the contents of the page, which was pretty much spreading “hate” and being “abusive”.

Some friends and confidants reported it and a friend Zain emailed facebook, cc’ing me and we received this reply as the page was taken off:

Hi Zain,

After reviewing the content, we have removed the reported group based on our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. If you need to report potential policy violations to Facebook in the future, please use the “Report” links located near most pieces of content on the site. We will then review the material and take the appropriate action. Please rest assured that these reports will be kept confidential.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

User Operations

Many similar pages, against the dictator Musharraf, many activist groups were taken down by facebook for similar reasons. Dr Awab wrote on Teeth Maestro about how Peoples Resistance was taken down. (Read Awab’s blogpost).
Though facebook is not the campaign itself, for the campaign can go on with or without facebook, but we need to protest against facebook’s biased attitude when it comes to these pages/groups spreading hatred on racial, ethnic and religious basis. This “Draw a Muhammad Day” directly hurts the feelings of billions of muslims around the globe, and Muhammad (p) is revered to by not only muslims, but non-muslims alike. A page circulated in reponse to this, saying “Everybody draw a holocaust Day” which was taken off within hours, which means it is not apathy on the part of facebook, as they would be receiving millions of reports on the aforementioned page. Certain religious sentiments are not to be incited, for religion remains to be a personal matter and in this troubling time, media and social networking hubs have immense responsibility on their shoulders as they are propagating machines/tools. They need to keep their yardstick same, while banning/censoring content as if they dont, cries of “bias” will be echoed everywhere, and they are here, for the right reasons 🙂
Why has facebook not responded in time and not taken this hate-page off , which disguises itself as Freedom of Speech activist page, but infact is throwing ignorant rants about the fastest growing religion of the world? And in turn, inticing a war between religions? The content on the page can be reviewed by my non-muslim friends and it is in clear violation of their terms of service specially item 3.7.
It is time facebook realises the bias in its policies and listens to the concerns of its users, if it is to grow, the way it has over the years.

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Allama Iqbal  in his poem “Asrar-i-Khudi,”  paid tribute to Hazrat Ali  (k) in the following terms:

Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet was a man of many qualities.
He gave fresh vigour to Faith.
And brought honours to the community of the faithful.
He developed self-disciplines and killed avarice.
A person who knows and controls himself rules the world.”

Such was the dynamic personality of Hazrat Ali (k) – The father of Sufism, the metaphor of “bravery” (known as “Sher-e-Khuda, The Lion of God), the symbol piety, the simile of Wisdom and the master of jurisprudence.

The Lion of God

The modern-day cinema produces movies of eternal chivalry, like Gladiator, The last Samurai, 300 etc. Hazrat Ali (k)’s stories of bravery are no short of a holly-wood epic. It was tradition of the time, then, to instigate a war by fighting duels (one on one) in the beginning. Islam was a new force to reckon with, the Muslims always had Ali (k) representing the flag of Islam in these duels. He fought over 100 duels, with best warriors of the opposing camp, and always stood victorious. Such was the vitality of the man, who is still remembered for his heroics in the battlefield and many Muslim armies use slogans to motivate soldiers, praising and remembering him. Pakistani Army, uses “Nara-e-Haideri” – “Ya Ali”

  • He participated in all the wars of early Islam which were fought under the command of the holy Prophet (p).
  • In all the battles, Hazrat Ali (k) was the flag-bearer for the forces of the Muslims.
  • He was the greatest man among the Muslims. For his unusual bravery, he won such titles as “Asad Allah,” (the Lion of God) or “Haidar-e-Karrar” (the warrior who nobody could match.)
  • During his lifetime, he killed over 1000 enemies. In the Battle of Badr alone killed two dozen people.
  • He fought over a hundred duels and in all the duels, his adversaries, however strong, were killed.
  • He was the conqueror of the Khyber.

The sea of knowledge and spirituality

  • After the holy Prophet, he was the Chief Judge among the early Muslims. He is known as the “father of fiqh.” [jurisprudence]
  • He is the first revivalist among the Muslims. He interpreted the doctrines of Islam and systematized them.
  • He is regarded as the “father of Sufism.” All schools of Tasawwuf [authentic Sufism] trace their origin to him.

According to ‘Data Ganj Baksh’; the rank of Hazrat Ali (k) is very high in the lineage of Sufis. According to JUNAYD AL-BAGHDADI, he is the Shaykh as regards to the principles and practices of tasawwuf. With exception of 1-2, all Sufi orders trace their lineage to him.

Ata Mohyuddin in his book, Ali, the Superman, assessed Hazrat Ali (k) in the following terms:

“Ali meant many different things to many generations, each of whom has found something to inspire it out of the diverse wealth of his mind. During his lifetime, he was thought of primarily as a warrior fighting at first in the battles of God, and later for a decade against schismatics. He was also respected for his knowledge and learning, and in later years many thought of him as a saint. But it was not until after his death that the effect which he had exercised over the ethical life of his time began to be appreciated. He was the founder of the movement which aimed to rejuvenate the ethical life of the Muslims. The Arabs had begun to forsake the unity of Islam in favour of the tribal laws of the “Days of Ignorance.” he had to fight against the disintegrating social forces that were everywhere around him and attempted almost singlehandedly to restore the religious policy of Islam. That he succeeded as well as he did was due to moral earnestness of his own character, and to the colossal store of spiritual knowledge from which he drew his strength. In subsequent ages, his ethical pronouncements which fell largely on deaf ears during his lifetime, were to have an invigorating effect on the Islam that he served so well. His influence, was to continue to make itself felt long after his death, and to recreate earnestness among the believers. It still makes itself felt today.

His sabre Dhul Fiqar, which was wielded by the Prophet on the battlefield of Badr, has been immortalized in the words of this verse found engraved in many medieval Arab records, “no sword can match Dhul Fiqar, and no young warrior can compare with Hazrat Ali (k).


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